Patti Smith has written a tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Sam Shepard, who died on Sunday (July 30) at the age of 73.
Smith and Shepard were long-time friends and collaborators, meeting in the early 1970s while he was a drummer for a folk band (Smith was initially unaware that Shepard was a respected playwright). The two ended up collaborating on and starring in a play together, Cowboy Mouth, and briefly dated: in one of the more memorable sequences of the documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life, Smith and Shepard jam together and reminisce on the play and their past relationship.
Writing in The New Yorker, Smith recalls her long conversations with the Shepard about art, history, and literature. She discusses his life and highlights his memorable quirks, as well as their scupppered plans to travel the American southwest together prior to his diagnosis of ALS. “He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west,” Smith writes. “He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.”
Smith discusses how she received news of Shepard’s death while in Lucerne, Switzerland. “The rain fell, obscuring tears. I knew that I would see Sam again somewhere in the landscape of dream, but at that moment I imagined I was back in Kentucky, with the rolling fields and the creek that widens into a small river. I pictured Sam’s books lining the shelves, his boots lined against the wall, beneath the window where he would watch the horses grazing by the wooden fence. I pictured myself sitting at the kitchen table, reaching for that tattooed hand.”